When Fred Smoot left as a free agent after the 2004 season, many Redskins fans lamented the loss of the popular defensive back. Though somewhat undersized relative to today's receivers, Smoot's brash style, 16 interceptions in four years and his willingness to play through pain made him a fan favorite.
Smoot suffered through two tumultuous, injury-marred seasons in Minnesota. He was plagued by a now infamous off-field scandal, and his numbers slipped dramatically as well. This year, Smoot and the Redskins are hoping his return to a place he considers home will help him regain his old form.
Head coach Joe Gibbs has gone so far as to call Smoot's departure a "mistake" and said he was glad to get a chance to rectify that mistake. Smoot himself told the Richmond Times Dispatch that a change of scenery is exactly what he needs. "When a player's not happy, he's not going to play up to his ability. It's proven in free agency every year," he said. "Great players go places, don't like it, end up going somewhere else and get right back on track."
Smoot will be the number three corner behind incumbent starters Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers, and the team will rely on his coverage skills and veteran experience to help stabilize a secondary that struggled badly against the pass in 2006. Smoot's experience as a starter will be valuable as the team has indicated that it will rely on its corners to play more man coverage in order to unleash a more aggressive pass rush.
And, in a less measurable way, Smoot's lighthearted nature has already proven beneficial to the team as it seeks to shake off a disappointing 5-11 record. "He keeps everybody loose," defensive back coach Steve Jackson told the Times Dispatch. "He's a breath of fresh air every day."
College: Mississippi State
Draft: 2nd round (45th overall) by Washington Redskins